I think demo discs are pretty cool. As I mentioned in a previous entry, they gave us an opportunity to play a game before it was released, as well as give us other useful tidbits and secrets. Sadly, high-speed internet has quashed the demo disc, but I still hold a fondness for them. Here are most of the demo discs I own:
To me, demo discs are a great snapshot of the video games of old to me. They give gamers like me a chance to gleam into what gaming was like in that time period. For instance, look at this menu of a PC Gamer demo disc circa late 1999:
Look at it. The menu, as well as some of the pages, have remnants of late 90s web design. There’s web pages that seem like a flashback to the the early days of the internet, complete with tiled backgrounds, varied fonts and goofy animated gifs. There’s even a gallery of really bad photoshops of former PC Gamer mascot Coconut Monkey in there just to drive it home that this is a byproduct of late 1990s PC gaming culture.
It’s more prevalent in older demo discs than in newer ones, but sometimes you would find modifications or additional levels to add on to your games. For example, the PC Gamer disc featured above has USS Darkstar, a Half-Life mod made by future They Hunger mod designer Neil Manke; A custom level for Duke Nukem 3D, which I didn’t know people were still making by 1999; and an Unreal map called “DM-TittyTwister.” Hey, I didn’t say all of these were gems.
In some cases, demo discs had demos to games that didn’t get released, or got heavily modified from their eventual release. Early PlayStation “Jampack” discs would sometimes highlight an import game straight from Japan, which was pretty cool at the time for that was a peek into gaming across the Pacific. This was before the internet made covering foreign games widespread and had entire web pages dedicated to Japanese erotic games. (NSFW!) One demo disc I have from Official Dreamcast Magazine even had a special Christmas edition of Toy Commander.
The absolute highlights of my collection are those PS2-exclusive demo discs. Sony seemed to do this a lot during the PS2 era, giving out these demo discs like they were candy. I have four of them: God of War, Hot Shots Tennis, Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain and Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror. I got each of these demo discs by different means. For instance, I got Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain by being part of a minor viral ad campaign involving several different websites. Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror and Hot Shots Tennis were discs I got back in the old “Gamer Advisory Panel” days, before Sony realized that a PlayStaton Blog was a more reliable way to get your praise from rabid Sony fans.
In the near future I may cover some more of these demo discs. I’ll be covering them more for historical purpose than for anything practical, especially since about 90% of the demos you can freely access on the internet. I like demo discs because you never know what you might find on them. For example, one of my finds was a video of Norman Chan, now a writer at Tested.com, shilling Comcast high-speed internet on a 2007 PC Gamer demo disc. He was advertising a whopping 8mbps download speed! EIGHT! That’s half the speed I have now!
(Updated June 21, 2012: Replaced collection picture with a higher-quality one.)